Motorcycling has a history of attracting the go-fast crowd. Those who wish to go the fastest look to sportbikes. The most advanced motorcycles in the industry fall under the sportbike banner as these machines are designed for optimum speed, acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. Sportbikes also rely on aerodynamics more than other motorcycles because these are the machines most often found competing on racetracks. Even those who don’t ever plan on racing can experience the thrill of braking deep into a corner by attending a track day at a local racetrack. Along with having the fastest motorcycles, sportbike riders are often found sporting the latest and safest motorcycle gear.
Debate still swirls about which motorcycle can be called the first sportbike, but there’s little disagreement that the 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 entered the scene as the first “true” sportbike, complete with full fairings and high-quality components with the singular purpose of going fast around a track. Today, there are three categories of sportbikes: Lightweights, Supersports, and Superbikes. All three are based on production motorcycles you can buy in dealerships.
Lightweights can be considered the entry-level sportbike. These machines have the smallest engine displacement, making it the most inviting for the new sportbike rider. Motorcycles in this category include models like the Yamaha YZF-R3, Kawasaki Ninja 400, and KTM RC390, though there are others.
Riders looking to graduate to the next level would look at the Supersport category, which typically consists of 599cc inline-Four cylinder motorcycles like the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600, and Yamaha YZF-R6. Other commonly accepted Supersports include Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R (with a 636cc Four), Triumph’s Daytona 675 (with a 675cc three-cylinder), and Ducati’s 848 V-Twin. Motorcycles in this category have considerably more power than the Lightweight category, which make it a good training ground for the future Superbike racer. Not only that, but some of these machines also share electronic rider aids with their more powerful bigger siblings. These include traction control, ABS, quickshifters, and different power modes. Suspensions are generally adjustable, giving the rider one more variable to tune in their search for speed.
The top rung of the sportbike world is the Superbike class. When it comes to cutting edge technology, these are the machines you’ll find them on. Typically featuring 999cc four cylinders like the Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10RR, Yamaha YZF-R1, and Suzuki GSX-R1000, V-Twins from manufacturers like Ducati feature 1285cc engine displacements! Ducati has since made a major shift and joined the four-cylinder crowd, producing the Panigale V4 with two displacement options: 1103cc and 999cc, making it and the Aprilia RSV4 the only two manufacturers offering two options on the V4 engine. Technology, in the way of rider aids, are quite advanced in this category, with lean-sensitive traction control and anti-lock brakes being some such examples. Wheelie control, slide control, variable engine braking, launch control, and quickshifters that work in both directions are just some of the tech these motorcycles offer. An Inertial Measurement Unit, or IMU, is integral to the operation of many of these rider aids, as it’s able to decipher the motorcycle’s yaw, pitch, and roll angles, which it then sends to the ECU. Together, with this information, the motorcycle’s rider aids are able to operate within predefined algorithms to allow bike and rider to go as quickly as possible with a larger margin of safety.
Does the updated KTM have what it takes to dethrone the class king?
Finding new ways to blow it for over 30 years
Two V4 giants get into a street brawl
Without a doubt, the biggest news in the sportbike scene for 2018 is Ducati’s Panigale V4 and the emergence of…